Sharpening our saw (focus)

Our leadership team recently met with the Victoria Department of Education and Melbourne Catholic Education Office. This peer to peer professional learning was invaluable.

Firstly, it provided an opportunity to hear what other educators/leaders are doing to improve their system’s learning and teaching and teacher-learning. Secondly, it allowed us to participate in a professional dialogue and critical reflection on our own work.

Darrell Fraser from VIC DET speaks to our leadership team

Stephen Covey (author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) refers to the process of continuous improvement as ‘sharpening the saw’. For me, the recent visit helped us to ‘sharpen our focus’ by adding to our collective wisdom and commitment to improving learning and teaching across all schools. We listened to our colleagues, we were challenged, inspired and learnt something from their experience.

I think as leaders we are often distracted by the process, at the expense of purpose of school improvement. We need to continually remind ourselves that the success of school communities, networks and systems depends on people and how they are ‘sharpening their own saw’. Covey speaks about the need to feed the spiritual, physical, emotional and social side of ourselves – the very things we aspire to do for our students.

Perhaps the question school and system leaders need to be asking is how are our processes improving our people?

Learning from each other is critical to our success.  After all we now expect our students to do it. 

3 thoughts on “Sharpening our saw (focus)

  1. Greg, I could not agree with you more here.
    I have been reading some of Ekhart Tolle’s. ” A New Earth” and ” The Power of Now”.
    Ekhart speaks of transformation through a deeper awareness of ‘Being’ which is something like ‘Sharpening the Saw’

  2. its great to hear that the parramatta CEO are meeting with inter state education departments and the fact that you are discussing how to improve the “saw” … hopefully you will be able to implement these new idea’s to improve the education system wisely within the parramatta district soon ..

  3. All sound comments, Greg.

    Process-oriented thinking has its place in school improvement, however the heart and soul, (that which stirs passion for deep learning), is trigged best by those who thirst to bring her or his knowledge, skills and experiences to the classroom each day: students and teachers.

    Your reference to Covey’s wisdom aligns nicely with the recent (10th April ’08) comments from well-known Sir Ken Robinson** at the Apple Education Leadership Summit in San Francisco.

    In his usual affable manner, with lightening-sharp wit, Robinson told conference delegates, three key things:

    1. We’re engaged globally in a revolution – the things that are shaping this revolution have no precedent so we have no way of anticipating the outcome.

    2. In order to meet the challenge of this revolution we have to thing differently about our use of resources.

    3. We have to do something in our education system, not to reform it, but to transform it.

    Robinson’s answer?

    Again – it’s creativity : “original ideas that have value” and schools and systems can stifle this, and metaphorically blunt the saw that is at the centre of our learning focus.


    Blunt saw = wasted processes = disconnected learning for teachers and students.

    More ill-conceived process will result in less strategic focus and less genuine learning, whether that is in educational sphere or the world of business.

    ** Author of “Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative.”

    Robinson’s keynote can be viewed in full here:

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